REVIEW: TENDERLY (New Wimbledon Studio) ★★★★★

Sometimes there are jukebox musicals that are forced to fit. They shoehorn songs into a plot, or fashion a plot around some pre-written songs. It tends to make for a very makeshift and incomplete feeling show. Tenderly, is not one of these.

Set in a doctor’s office, the show is Rosemary Clooney’s recount of her career up to the point of her very public breakdown on stage. With a few original songs alongside the Clooney classics, the show is holistically a fantastic piece. Her life is a gift to any writer, filled with ups and downs and amazing famous characters such as Frank Sinatra. The songs are perfectly spread across the show equally used as songs Clooney performs at gigs and songs that fit into the musical to tell the story of the piece.

Katie Ray’s portrayal of Clooney is flawless. She embodies the style and character with grace and fiery passion. She guides us through the story with ease, both sexy and heartbreakingly vulnerable. As performances go, this is one I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Tania Azevedo’s direction of the piece sits really nicely in the New Wimbledon studio space. I particularly liked the choices she makes in how to switch Fed Zanni between his doctor character and countless others (Ray plays Clooney and Zanni plays everyone else) by having him pick up simple props or remove his glasses. Azevedo is excellently specific at highlighting the themes of the piece throughout, as the non linear piece flows through. The increasing demise of Clooney in her count of events is clearly separate from her in the present, and yet in never feels like two separate shows. Between the writing and directing, we clearly explore the betrayal and heartbreak that Clooney is subjected to and it’s effects.

The show is how jukebox shows should be. Utilising fantastic music that happens to have already been written, to tell a powerful story. I hope it has a future life past the New Wimbledon and I have a feeling this is not the last we will be seeing of it.

Review by Kara Taylor Alberts (@karaalberts)